Learn English – Family rules

Does your family have rules? If you are a parent, are they different from the rules YOUR parents had for you? If you are living at home with your parents, do you want to have the same ones with your future family?


Hey there. Did you grow up in a family with rules, family rules, household guidelines? Are you a parent today with rules for your family? Let’s talk about them

(Intro: English without Fear where you can learn to speak English naturally, through listening to stories.)

When I was a little girl, my family had three rules. My mom made the first rule. At night, after we had eaten dinner, after the kitchen was clean, she would announce: “Kitchen closed!”. And that meant there was no more food to be had. I never had a snack after the kitchen was closed.

My dad made up the other two rules. His rule, his first rule was: “Maria – pick up your stuff and take it back to your room.” I was terrible. I would leave my things all over the house. And he was always saying, “Maria, pick up your stuff, please!” I was lazy. 

His other rule had to do with words that I was not allowed to say. I couldn’t say, “Pop,” (that’s what I called him. Pop) “Pop, I can’t….”  And he would say, “Maria ‘can’t’ is not in the dictionary.” So, he would never allow me to give up and say, ‘I can’t do this’. I would have to keep trying. That’s a good rule.

The other word I was not allowed to say was “I’m bored!” He thought being bored was being lazy. He would say, “There are so many things to learn. No one can be bored. No one should be bored!” I remember one summer I had a friend over, we were about 10 years old, and we were bored. So, we went up to my dad who happened to be home. And I said, “Pop we’re bored.” And you know what he did? He said, “I’m going to give you girls something to memorize.” And we said, “Yes? What is it?” And he said, “Here, memorize the Preamble to the Constitution.”

What is a preamble? ‘Pre’ means ‘before’.  The Preamble to the Constitution, to the American Constitution, is the first paragraph. So, my friend and I set about that day memorizing the first paragraph.

It starts like this: “We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union….” and it goes on. It gives the reason for why the Constitution was written. We thought this was fun. We thought this was great fun. And I don’t know, maybe in an hour or so, we ran back to my father and I said, “Pop, can we recite, can we recite, tell you the Preamble to the Constitution?” So, that’s what I remember.

And then I grew up.  I became a mom and Mike and I had two boys. Did we have family rules? You bet, completely different though.

Rule number one: No matter how late our boys’ sports practices or games or afterschool activities, whatever they were doing, no matter how late they were, we always ate dinner together, at the table. And we would talk. We would talk about the day, we would talk about ideas. The boys would tell us about school. We would discuss politics. We always ate dinner together, as a family. 

Another rule was on Saturdays the boys had to clean their rooms, pick up their rooms before playing, before going out of the house, before playing video games, things like that. 

Another rule was that once they started to drive, they had to be home before midnight, before 12 o’clock. We call, that’s called a curfew. Only one time did one of our sons break the curfew and he got in trouble. He got in big trouble because we were very scared!

Another rule we had was when the boys turned 15, they had to get a part-time job, either after school or on Saturdays. We thought that they would learn to manage time and money if they had to work a few hours while still in high school. And of course during the summer. So, Graham, our oldest boy, worked at a small restaurant and he also worked at a video game store. He liked that job. Our other son, Wes, worked in a grocery store. And they enjoyed having pocket money to pay for gas for the car. 

Rule number five came later after we saw that our first son Graham was too involved with after-school activities. We let him choose any activity he wanted to do: sports, theater, band,anything. And his grades went down.

So, when our next son was in high school, we said: “You may do one major, one big activity each season –  fall, winter, spring, during the school year.” So, you could do a sport or you could do a theater production. You couldn’t do both at the same time. And that helped Wes, that helped our son, that helped him have enough time for the part- time job and to study well. 

So, what about you? What are the rules in your family right now? And if you are a parent, do your rules now, are they different? Do they differ from when you were a kid? For example, my husband, when he was a boy, if the next day was a school day, he was not allowed to watch TV the night before. I never had that rule in my house. But because of that, my husband is an excellent reader and he has a very good imagination. I think that’s a good rule. 

Well, that’s it for this episode. I’m Maria from English without Fear. Talk to you next time. 

(Outro: Thanks for watching. For questions or comments, here’s my email.)


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